As with any police force, the Angelus PD had its share of evidence rooms. There was the vehicle impound lot, where one could find cars, trucks, airbikes, and spinners of all shapes and sizes. And the mecha lot, where all the hardsuits, Landmates, power loaders, and armors ended up. The weapons room, which according to Tyger was crammed with just about every kind of lethal instrument known to man. And a general property room, where everything that wasn't a weapon (or a controlled substance) ended up. And last (but certainly not least), was the Special Evidence Vault.
Located at the bottom of XSWAT headquarters, in the center of the magical wards that protected HQ itself, the Vault was surrounded by even more wards, both mystical and technological. It was a heavily armored box, set into the floor of Angelus, equipped with its own self-contained environmental system and independent power supply. Inside one found not only drugs—both medical and recreational—but just about anything inexplicable XSWAT officers managed to pick up in the course of their duties.
Most officers gave the Vault a wide berth, and for good reason—there were some very strange things locked away in it. They called it "the Dungeon," if they called it anything, and almost never talked about what was in it.
Jamadigni Renuka, on the other hand, called it "the Playroom."
JAMA MAKES A DISCOVERY
Officer Jamadigni Renuka, XSWAT, 9th Squad, 13th Precinct leaned against Officers Anubis's desk and looked bored. In one hand she held the (currently empty) carrying case for the Esperanza Grimorium, while the fingers of her free hand drummed on the table top. Anubis, for his part, simply twitched his long ears and shot her a narrow-eyed glance. The drumming stopped.
A canine-Clade, Anubis had the typical tall and rangy build common to security models. He'd been with XSWAT for some time, working as a patrol officer, until an encounter with a particularly aggressive Entity resulted in him losing part of one ear, one eye, most of one arm, and... well, you get the idea. Rebuilt, he was then transferred inside, eventually becoming chief of inventory, and taking a personal interest in the Vault. He kept his office outside the Vault's main door and claimed to not be bothered by working next to possibly the most magically-volatile chamber on the planet.
For her part, Jama had been in and out of the Vault so often her requests for entry had become virtual formalities. When ever she expected to be away from Angelus for an extended period, she placed the Esperanza Grimorium in it's armored locker in the Vault, confident it was as secure as she could hope for. And now, she was back, case in hand, with the intent of taking the book back out for more study.
"Access confirmed," Anubis rumbled, handing Jama her ID card back. With a hiss and a clang, the vault's main door opened and slowly swung back.
Inside was a virtual maze of shelves, racks, and cabinets. Organization was somewhat haphazard—not even Anubis wanted to sort things beyond the most basic categories. Clothes went there, art objects there, weapons here (in locked cabinets), and books in the lockers along the back wall. Bins held broken masses of pottery, stone, fragments of wood or metal, while rows of jars held liquids, potions, and specimens.
Pausing by one shelf, Jama regarded one such bottle. "Knappogue Castle 1951 Single Malt" the label said. She reached out and tapped the bottle gently with one finger nail. A small frog swam up to the glass and peered at her for a moment before vanishing in a flick of its legs. Glancing at the foil and wax-sealed cap, Jama shook her head and continued.
At the end of the shelf Jama stopped again, this time to regard an apparent new addition to the vault. A tall, narrow glass cylinder, the top sealed and locked, sat there. It was filled with a clear liquid, presumably formaldehyde, and some sort of utterly unidentifiable specimen. To Jama it looked uncomfortably like two human hands pressed close together, the eight "fingers" surmounted by a single eye, while a long tail dangled from the other end. From the "palm" of the hand depended a narrow feeding tube. Suppressing a shudder, Jama stared at the monstrosity for a wary moment, but unlike the frog, it didn't move.
She knew Dr. Kamang's kris was in here somewhere, hopefully safely locked away. Her own kris rested in its sheath, and hopefully would stay that way, although she'd taken the precaution of asking its resident hantu to alert her of any dangers. It had done so before while in this room, rattling in its sheath in response from some threat she couldn't perceive herself. Most of the time, however, the Vault was quiet, perhaps because most items in here accepted her, or, at least, didn't wholly object to her presence.
Movement out of the corner of her eye made Jama freeze, her hand falling to the hilt of her kris. Slowly she turned her head before settling her gaze on a sphere of smooth glass. Leaning forward, she squinted and took a closer look.
The sphere was obviously hollow and seemed to be without seams. It sat in a small wooden cradle, in the middle of a square of black velvet. Inside the sphere a spider, about the size and shape of a North American black widow, spun a web. Gritting her teeth, Jama willed herself against recoiling and took a closer look. The spider was cream colored and had a dark vaguely hourglass shaped marking on its abdomen. Jama had never seen its like before and she was more than willing to bet no one else on Earth had either.
The Vault, Jama decided only got stranger and stranger with each visit. Ever since reading the report on her team's visit to an alternate timeline (one in which the Cataclysm had never happened, but the Third World War had) she'd taken a closer look at many of the items in the room. Sure enough, she eventually found a silver dollar from the United States of America with the profile of a man wearing a crown on the obverse and a wild turkey clutching arrows and a laurel wreath on the reverse. And Anubis swore there was a pack of paper money somewhere in here that had pictures of General Robert E. Lee on them.
Some things seemed to make sense, like all of the wands and staves piled in bins. Or the silver bullets. Even the wooden ones with runic symbols carved into the tips. Those things made sense. But what about the painting in the corner? The one taken from a sorcerer's sanctorium. It looked normal enough—a woman sitting on a balcony overlooking the ocean. But everything you looked at it, something was different. Her clothes, the ship sailing by, the position of the sun. Jama debated giving it another glance, but decided against it. Recently someone had placed a cybernetic forearm on the shelf next to the painting, and while that was mundane enough, the crystal arm next to it wasn't. She swore it had twitched one or twice while she'd been studying the painting, and it was the one item in the room guaranteed to make her kris rattle in its sheath.
Well, enough of that. She had work to do and Anubis tended to get irritable if she stayed in her too long. Probably figured she'd touch the wrong thing and create a new Omega Sector. Jama shrugged and made her way to the book lockers. She needed to get back to the Esperanza Grimorium anyway. However, the sight of another new addition to the Vault promptly dashed her plans.
The object was a glossy black sphere with a solid white circle on one side. In the middle of the circle was an infinity symbol. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Jama picked the sphere up, realizing from its weight it was hollow and apparently full of fluid.
"What are you?" she asked out loud, turning the sphere over to reveal a small window in the bottom. A moment later a series of white letters appeared.
"The Magic 8-Ball"
Jama blinked. That was different.
She turned the ball back up, realizing to her chagrin that yes, that was an eight and not an infinity symbol. "Who am I?"
She peered at the window. Could this thing really tell her anything she wanted to know?
"What is Alice Cadbury?"
"Better Not To Tell You Now"
That almost earned the "Magic 8-Ball" a hurl into the nearest wall.
Sighing through gritted teeth, Jama gave the ball a sharp shake. "You think you're so smart don't you?"
"Without A Doubt"
"Bounce you off of a wall, you keep this up," Jama muttered. Raising her voice, Jama stared at the ball for a moment, trying to not feel foolish. "Magic 8-Ball, will we eliminate the Entity threat from Angelus and the Earth?"
"Reply Hazy Ask Again Later"
Slamming the ball down on the shelf with a Balinese curse, Jama strode off to the book lockers in a huff. That was the problem with magical scrying devices, they always thought they knew better than you.